25 Nov 2021
In 2012, a small French energy utility attended an Austrade conference and decided to enter the Australian renewables market. Since then, Neoen has been a driving force behind nation-building clean energy investments across Australia. It currently operates more capacity here than in France.
Neoen owns and operates 14 large-scale renewable energy projects in Australia. They include 4 wind farms, 7 solar farms and 3 battery storage facilities. There are another 3 projects under construction, creating upwards of 750 jobs in regional Australia.
With 2 GW of assets in operation or under construction, Neoen has so far invested more than A$3 billion. This represents 35–40% of the company’s global installed capacity.
Australian projects set global benchmarks
Neoen’s Australian renewables projects are global benchmarks.
‘Our original solar farms were around 20 MW,’, says de Sambucy. ‘Right now, we’re building a 400 MW farm in Queensland – the largest in Australia.’
Neoen has also tested and deployed batteries at a large scale and with significant innovation. These projects were undertaken in collaboration with Tesla and network operators.
‘Our first battery was initially 100 MW,’ says de Sambucy. ‘That was already 10 times larger than anything on the market. Today, we’re working on a 300 MW battery.
‘These large batteries enable better management and high penetration of renewables in the grid. They also keep the electricity supply reliable and affordable.’
The increase in renewable energy supply is reducing wholesale electricity prices across Australia (Source: Australian Energy Market Operator, Renewable and negative price records fall in the September quarter, October 2021). Battery storage is also strengthening the network’s capacity to respond to sudden disruptions and preventing blackouts.
Neoen’s rapid growth makes it a major contributor to Australia’s renewable energy capability. This, in turn, bolsters Australia’s ability to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Australia is investing over A$20 billion over the next decade to drive the transition to net zero. It plans to leverage private-sector investment to reach A$80 billion in total.
Partnering with Australian experts
Neoen is proud to work alongside local companies in the electricity and construction sectors.
‘The skills and technologies in our sector have evolved so much in our time here,’ says de Sambucy. ‘We have a strategy to engage with our local energy partners very early on. It’s exciting to watch them grow with us.’
Neoen also has a battery storage optimisation partnership with the Australian National University. ‘We have some fantastic ANU graduates and PhD candidates developing the sophisticated algorithms necessary to run our batteries.’
Giving back to the community
Community engagement is a central aspect of Neoen’s work.
‘We develop a benefit-sharing approach specific to each local context,’ says de Sambucy. ‘This could be an ongoing community benefit fund to support local community building and sustainability initiatives.’ For example, the Hornsdale project makes a $120,000 annual investment in local community projects in the region around Jamestown, South Australia, through its Community Fund.
More recently, the team has been working on a Learning Hub. This is a suite of curriculum-linked educational material for Year 6 and Year 8 students.
Neoen is also making a 20-year investment in the Renewable Energy Skills Centre of Excellence at the Canberra Institute of Technology, in a partnership with Vestas. This won the 2021 Australian Training Awards for Industry Collaboration.
A goal to double in size
Neoen has high hopes for its operations here in Australia. Its goal is to double in size by 2025.
‘We believe that with the resources in Australia and the need for clean energy, this is something very achievable,’ says de Sambucy.
Much like the company and its projects, Neoen’s partnership with Austrade has also evolved.
‘We’ve kept a very close link with Austrade,’ says de Sambucy. ‘Austrade has been extremely helpful in providing contacts in Australia. This type of support is invaluable.’